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Why 'Legally Blonde's Elle Woods Remains Our Fave '00s Feminist Icon

She's making a comeback

Comedic chick flicks were the stuff of our 2000s, and one that definitely stood out in those carefree days of yore was Legally Blonde. We're talking about it as if it's that's so long ago because yes — believe it or not — it is almost two decades since the 2001 film premiered. Starring Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods, the titular blonde, the movie based on the novel of the same name was completely riveting. It became such a huge hit that it spawned a sequel, a spin-off about Elle's English cousins, and even a Broadway musical that expanded the iconic "bend and snap" scene beyond just a film dance number. And, by a stroke of luck, the OG cast might finally reunite after 17 years, with Mindy Kaling and Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Dan Goor tasked to pen MGM's upcoming Legally Blonde 3.




With the eldest of the millennials back then just settling into young adulthood, Reese Witherspoon's portrayal of the headstrong protagonist was a role model for us all who grew up watching the franchise. And even decades later with Legally Blonde 3 in the works, the classic flick is something we look back to for when we are in need of a dose of positivity. Aside from Elle leaving us in stitches with her hijinks as she builds her law career, what makes Legally Blonde such a beloved pop culture artefact of the early '00s is how her character was shaped up to be an unexpected feminist icon. Granted, she has her faults, but here are some key decisions she made that helped empower us all.



She challenged stereotypes




The first film revolved around Elle as she adjusted to her life at Harvard Law School, and initially, her vivacious personality clashed with most of her peers'. Not to mention, being a sorority girl who studied fashion, most were quick to look down upon her, dismissing her as someone who's all about parties and never serious. Still, Elle fought the dumb blonde stereotype she's being forced into and worked her best to keep up and achieve her goals. It doesn't matter that they tried to trick her into attending a non-costume party in a Playboy Bunny attire — instead, she uses this humiliation and anger as a drive to prove everyone wrong.


She's a strong, independent woman


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Like us all, however, Elle isn't perfect. How can we forget that her main motivation in the beginning, which basically kickstarted the film, was her ex? Initially expecting his proposal, Elle gets dumped by Warner (Matthew Davis) for a "more serious" life and girlfriend. Naturally heartbroken, she wanted to prove him her worth. Thinking he'd take her back if she becomes on par with his presumed status, she studied for months to enter Harvard. Having your life revolve around a guy isn't really the most empowering start. Thankfully, Elle wakes and realises he'll never take her seriously and it's totally fine — she doesn't need him anyway. Though she finds a new love interest in the form of Emmett (Luke Wilson), their relationship comes as an afterthought. He's not the main focus of Elle's happy ending in the first film, nor the focus of the second film.

She showed that women are stronger together




Aside from forging strong friendships with her sisters from Delta Nu, Elle makes a dozen of friends too in her move to Harvard. For one, there was Paulette (Jennifer Coolidge), whom Elle helped move forward in life and away from her abusive husband. Not to mention, there's also Vivian (Selma Blair), Warner's new girlfriend. Though they had an initial rivalry, the two managed to settle their differences and became best of friends, realising that the guy they were fighting over was just not worth it. 


Later on, we also meet Brooke Wyndham (Ali Larter), Elle's client during her internship. To be cleared of her murder charges, Brooke had to produce an alibi that she wasn't there when her husband died because she was having liposuction. Seeing how this would ruin Brooke's fitness empire and reputation, Elle respected her silence and promised not to disclose what had happened. 


The scenes are mostly painted in hilarity but the message gets across: women are far stronger when supporting each other instead of cutting down each other to reach the top.


She stands up for herself


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In a dark turn of events, right when Elle's internship reaches a critical point, her professor, Callahan (Victor Garber), uses his position to seduce her, threatening to ruin her career if she doesn't accept his advances. Knowing what's at stake, she stood up to him and rejected his advances. This harassment takes a toll on her confidence, as Elle believes she just got the internship not because she has the abilities but merely because of her looks. She was about to quit, thinking a career in law isn't something fit for her. But with a few words of encouragement from Emmet and another female professor, she decides to fight back and steal Callahan's client away from him.


For this, Legally Blonde continues to be relevant until today. With women still experiencing harassment whether in the workplace or not, Elle's move could potentially give other women the courage to speak up too. 

She stays true to herself


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Lastly, of course, Elle remains an inspiration to all because she's unapologetically feminine. Elle's the iconic girly girl, opting for eye-catching sequinned outfits, feathery pink pens. Though at one point, she tries to fit in better by wearing old boring suits, she later realises there's nothing wrong about being who she is. Right in the climax before she exposes the real murderer, she makes her grand entrance wearing her signature hot pink ensemble. Embracing femininity is often perceived as a weakness, but by sticking to herself and what she loves, Elle showed us all that sacrificing it isn't necessary to achieve something. 


Of course, if you really just aren't the girly type of girl, it's also totally fine. That's the main point of the film — have confidence and faith in yourself and just do you.


(Cover photo from: @legallyblondemovies)



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